A BUSINESSMAN is keeping a young Hartlepool canoeist on track for her sporting dreams.
Ray Liddell, who runs the town company Cactus Products and has just opened a sandwich shop in Seaton Carew called Number 72, made sure canoeist Bethan Kelly has the best chances possible to succeed by sponsoring her.
Ray paid for equipment including new paddles, items for her canoe and other “bits and pieces,” he said.
Bethan, 15, has been canoeing since 2008 and went from the Fourth Division of the women’s national kayak league to the First in successive years.
The High Tunstall College of Science pupil finished last season 21st in the overall standings and this year is currently 16th.
She has been a member of the England junior training squad for the last two years and last season represented her country in the Pan Celtic series against Ireland, Scotland and Wales.
Bethan, who paddles for Tees Tigers, is also a member of two bodies for promising local young athletes, the Tees Active Academy and Teesside Future champions.
Her next big challenge is to compete in the Teen Cup in Augsburg, in Germany, early in August and it will be her first taste of international competition.
Teen Cup is a prestigious slalom event which, as the name suggests, is for youth paddlers and draws competitors from all over Europe.
Proud mum Lorraine, 40, who is a swimming teacher, said: “The experience of training and competing in Augsburg will be invaluable to Bethan’s development.
“This sport and these trips are expensive and need to be self-funded.
“We are grateful to the grants we have received from Hartlepool Sports Council and Teesside Future champions.
“But to get sponsorship and support from Ray and Number 72 is amazing.
“Ray is genuinely interested in Bethan and seeing her progress in this sport and we can’t thank him enough for his help.”
Ray said: “I was looking to sponsor a young person. Bethan is truly someone who is starting out and showing quite a bit of promise.
“I know that she is off to Germany and she is working towards the next Olympics, and I know that it can be a costly exercise.
“I will be looking to sponsor her again next year if at all possible.”
Ray first hit the headlines in 2009 when his Hartlepool-based company won the Mail-backed If we can, you can competition thanks to the spiky strips which he supplies called The Cactus.
Since then, he says, word has spread and orders are coming in from all over the world.